What Do You Fear and Why?

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What do you fear, and why? The best way to come to grips with fear is to sit with it and think about it without judgment, and ask yourself some questions.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why you fear what you do? Some people are scared of leaving their houses (agoraphobia), some are scared of spiders (arachnophobia), and some people are scared of germs (germophobia). But why do people fear these things? What about bigger fears? Like fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of rejection, fear of making a mistake? What do you fear? But more importantly, why do you fear it?

Ruth Soukup has an amazing new book coming out very, very soon (May 21st!) titled Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You Love. Check out my book review which goes live on Monday, May 20th! I go more in depth on the book in that review, but I wanted to touch on a fact that Ruth discovered during her research for this book: everyone experiences fear differently.

We all experience a unique combination of the seven fear archetypes: Procrastinator, Rule Follower, People Pleaser, Outcast, Self-Doubter, Excuse Maker, and Pessimist. They’re nuanced in their own ways but relatively self-explanatory.

What Am I Afraid Of?

My top three fear archetypes are People Pleaser, Procrastinator, and Rule Follower. In fact, if you pre-order the book before May 26th you’ll be able to get a free upgrade to the premium Fear Assessment, which lets you see your Fear Archetype ranking for all of them.

This is the ranking of my fear archetypes:

I didn’t really know what to expect when taking this assessment, but its accuracy surprised me.

When I stop and think, many of my decisions are driven by what others will think of me. I show up early to meetings because I don’t want anyone to think I don’t respect their time. I feel anxiety deep in my stomach when I think about letting someone I respect and admire down, such as my husband, close friends, and my manager. 

But what else do I fear?

  • Losing my health insurance (type 1 diabetes is hella expensive)
  • Alienating my friends and family with any level of success I may achieve
  • Ruining relationships with my ambition
  • Financial insecurity
  • Becoming pregnant—even more so because I’m childfree
  • Dying young because of poor health
  • Getting injured or dying while participating in a sport I love, like skiing or rock climbing

What Do You Fear?   

Have you ever taken the time to just sit with this question? Let it stew in your brain for a bit without judgment. What feelings arise inside? Do you feel anxious or worried when you think about it? Do your palms get sweaty or does your heart start beating really fast?

What we fear says a lot about us.

I might fear what certain people will think of my decisions, but I’m not afraid of an honest, productive conversation during performance review time. This might be surprising: I actually quite enjoy talking to my manager about my goals and whether I think I’ve achieved them or not—and getting his feedback is equally important for my growth.

I might be a procrastinator (A.K.A. a perfectionist) because I’m scared of something not being perfect, but I’m getting much better at “shipping” instead of sitting on things. Forcing myself to write two articles a week guarantees that nothing I write is 100% perfect, but it’s out there and helping people. I hope.

I might be a rule follower in that I feel pretty uncomfortable with breaking the rules, but I think for myself and almost never follow the trends of what others think or do if I don’t agree with it. As an Upholder on the Four Tendencies, I’m the polar opposite of “Rebel.”

What do your fears say about you?

What do you fear, and why? The best way to come to grips with fear is to sit with it and think about it without judgment, and ask yourself some questions.

Why Do You Fear It?

Many things we fear, we fear because we don’t have enough information.

Spiders give me the heebie-jeebies (if it moves, it dies) because I’m not familiar enough with the different species to identify if it’s venomous or not. I’d rather kill them all than try to identify it and risk a brown recluse bite.

But what if I did know more about spiders? I’d be able to recognize when one is completely harmless and maybe give it a friendly escort outside—so it’s able to do its spiderly duties and not end up Luna’s plaything.

Many, many people are afraid of speaking up at work when something isn’t going well or they feel uncomfortable with their workload. They’ve been conditioned not to say “no” to people in authority and end up burning out. They’re afraid of rocking the boat and maybe ending up without a job.  

But what if you had a good relationship with your superiors? What if you were confident in your abilities to find a new job (or create one for yourself) if a conversation went sideways with your employer? Wouldn’t that cut down on your levels of fear?

How It Interacts with the People Pleaser Archetype

I noticed that I wanted to keep the peace and never told my boss at my first job that I didn’t feel connected to the work. It didn’t excite me. And that’s part of why losing that job was one of the best things that happened, even though it felt like the end of the world at the time.

Where I am now, the relationship I have with my manager is really good. I feel comfortable bringing concerns to him and am equally comfortable telling him if I don’t think something is working. I’ve also learned so much at my job that, while I have zero plans to leave, I know it would not be the end of the world if I had to.

Fear Setting

Tim Ferriss, who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek, does something he calls “fear setting.” About once a quarter he gets out a piece of paper and draws three columns on it.

In column one he lists his biggest fears.

In column two he writes down the worst possible outcome if that fear were to become a reality.

And in column three, he works through either what he would have to do to mitigate the possibility of that happening or how he would respond to the fear coming to fruition.

This exercise helped him realize that it would cost him more (in terms of money, experience, mental health, etc.) to not go on a lengthy trip to Europe when he had fears of his business collapsing without him there to run it.

Ferriss gave a fantastic TED talk on Fear Setting:


Define Your Fears    

I suggest sitting with these questions for about 30 minutes with a journal and just write what’s on your mind:

  • What do you fear?
  • Why do you fear it?
  • What would happen if the fear came true?
  • What could you do now, before it happens, to lessen its impact if it does?
  • If it did happen, what would you do to fix it?
  • Is it worth remaining afraid when you consider everything all together?

I’d love to hear your comments on fear down below.

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  1. Wow, this seems like an interesting read. I am glad I found this. I am definitely a people pleaser and doubt myself a lot. I love the exercise on how to define your fears too. Great article! And, I’m going to have to check out that book! Pinned!

  2. This is such a great post, and so important to know what our true fear is, and what the root of it is. I sometimes list mine out, and work to solve the easier ones that don’t matter, so that I have the mental energy to focus on the really difficult ones. And yes, I can’t stand spiders. My granddaughter told me I am much bigger than they are, so they should be scared of me instead. LOL